By Jen Kastner
ANDREWS- An Andrews woman is accused of murdering the toddler she was babysitting. Mandi Joy McDaniel is facing capital and felony murder charges for allegedly killing 15-month-old Zula Grey Johnson. On Wednesday, she was indicted by an Andrews grand jury.
The indictment shows the incident happened on December 13, 2012, and that Johnson suffered from a "striking [to] the head with or against a hard or soft object or surface." A trusted source who wants to remain anonymous tells NewsWest 9, McDaniel had initially told everyone the little girl choked to death.
On Thursday, NewsWest spoke off-camera with the toddler's mother. She says McDaniel was a good friend who'd been looking after her three kids while she was at work. We're told McDaniel had been babysitting for the family every Monday through Friday for the last five or so months prior to Johnson's death. Johnson's mother is simply devastated. Their family is heartbroken.
The news is hard for most everyone to believe, especially for the people who live and work in Andrews. One resident said, "It's a very small city and I'm astonished." Another Andrews resident says, "It's just crazy. You would think in a little town like this that things like that wouldn't happen. There aren't a lot of people out here. Most of the people you know are nice and you wouldn't think someone would do something like that."
Andrews County and District Attorney Timothy Mason issued a statement to NewsWest 9 saying, "This is the first step in the process of seeking justice for this child and her family and I can assure you that this office, working with law enforcement, will take all steps necessary to effectively and efficiently prosecute this individual to the fullest extent of the law."
NewsWest 9 talked over the phone with Andrews County Sheriff Sam Jones. He only gave NewsWest 9 limited details because the investigation is still open. The Texas Rangers are working with the sheriff's department on the case.